Toora Vale Ice Company, Berri: Welcome Mr Ice Man

Toora Vale Ice Company, Berri: Welcome Mr Ice Man
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An ice delivery man carries a block of ice from his truck into a suburban home. A woman opens an Iceway ice refrigerator to show how the block of ice cools and preserves food. The male narrator promotes the benefits of ice refrigeration by highlighting the 'delightful appetising meals’, 'cold crisp salads’, 'firm butter’, 'delicious jellies and custards’, 'safe, untainted meat’ and 'icy cold’ drinks that the woman removes from the fridge. Summary by Poppy De Souza.

The ice delivery man in this advertisement is reminiscent of the 'milkman’ and 'paperboy’ – localised services that have all but disappeared.


Welcome Mr Ice Man synopsis

This cinema advertisement for Toora Vale Ice Company promotes the use of block ice for refrigeration to preserve and cool food.


Welcome Mr Ice Man curator's notes

This short, but effective, advertisement uses an authoritative male narrator to point out the benefits of using block ice in refrigeration. It comes from a time when electrical goods (such as electric stoves) were being heavily promoted for the home. But it was also a time of economic hardship for many families and this ad emphasises the economy, health and comfort brought by the ‘ice man’. In an animated advertisement for the Toora Vale Ice Company from the same year, the electric refrigerator is positioned as unreliable as well as costly (see Toora Vale Ice Company, Berri: The Ice Man Was Never Like This).

In the 1930s, the Toora Vale Ice Company was based in Monash, outside of Berri in South Australia. In the 1940s, the company stopped selling ice and began farming potatoes, harvested by members of the Australian Women’s Land Army. No longer operating under the Toora Vale name, but still based in Monash, the company now produces glacé fruit.

Notes by Poppy De Souza


Education notes

This black-and-white clip from the 1930s shows a cinema advertisement for the Toora Vale Ice Company that promotes ice and ice refrigerators as products that provide ‘health and comfort’. An ice delivery man is shown delivering ice to a suburban home before the clip cuts to a kitchen where a housewife displays her ice refrigerator. Close-ups reveal the ice compartment with an ice block and then the contents of the refrigerator. The voice-over informs the viewer that ‘plenty of ice in a good ice refrigerator means delightful, appetising meals’.

Educational value points

  • This advertisement for an ice refrigerator emphasises food protection – for example, it claims that ice refrigeration brings ‘health’ and means ‘safe untainted meats’ – because in the 1930s, prior to the introduction of antibiotics, food contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella could lead to potentially fatal illnesses. The low temperatures in refrigerators retard the growth of bacteria that could cause food-borne diseases.
  • The clip is an example of a 1930s advertisement that sells a product and a way of life. The claim that ice promotes ‘comfort and health’ suggests that by using ice a woman can be a good housewife. It appeals to women by featuring an ordinary housewife with whom female viewers can identify and by focusing on home economics; for example, with an ice refrigerator the housewife can make ‘delightful, appetising meals’ and safeguard the health of her family.
  • The ice delivery man is dressed in a white, almost clinical uniform, which reinforces the association in the advertisement of ice with hygiene and also makes the delivery man a non-threatening benign figure that a woman would feel comfortable allowing into her home. Ice was delivered at least twice a week and it was usually women, who were in charge of the domestic sphere, who dealt with the ice delivery man.
  • Ice refrigerators, also known as ice chests, were usually made of metal or wood, insulated with materials such as cork or sawdust and lined with tin, zinc or porcelain. They worked by placing a large block of ice in a top compartment. Water from the melted ice was collected in a drip pan, which was emptied daily. Most ice blocks weighed either 25 pounds or 50 pounds (about 11 kg or 22 kg), sizes designed to fit in refrigerators, and were replaced about every three days.
  • Although the advertisement describes ice refrigerators as modern, by the 1930s they were being superseded by electric refrigerators, which had become more reliable and cost about the same to purchase and maintain without the inconvenience of replacing ice. First sold in the 1900s, early electric refrigerators were costly, often broke down and contained toxic and flammable refrigerants; however, by the 1930s they were no longer more problematic than ice refrigerators.
  • In this period refrigerators did not have separate compartments for foodstuffs and food was often stored uncovered, which compounded the tendency of electric refrigerators to dry out food. The high humidity of ice refrigerators made food less likely to dry out, although only if, as the advertisement indicates, there was plenty of ice. Ice refrigerators also supplied ice to add to drinks and could keep ice-cream frozen. Electric models did not have a freezer section.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia